For 25 years the Conservation Reserve Program has worked to protect our nation's natural resources. The Food Security Act of 1985 provided for the establishment of CRP and for the protection of highly erodible land. CRP was introduced at a time when soil erosion exceeded more than 3 billion tons per year, wetlands were being drained, water quality was deteriorating and wildlife populations were under stress due to the loss of habitat. Since its inception, the program has helped reduce soil erosion by 622 million tons, provided natural habitats for wildlife, restored more than 2 million acres of wetlands and removed millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the air.
"Although it was designed to address soil erosion, CRP has become one of the standouts in the USDA arsenal of conservation programs by continuing to provide significant economic and environmental benefits beyond its original intent," said Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., says the Conservation Reserve Program enables our nation's farmers and ranchers to protect and preserve their land while also providing clean air and water, and areas to hunt and fish. Peterson pledged his commitment to conservation as Congress looks to the 2012 Farm Bill.
CRP is a voluntary program that encourages agricultural landowners to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage to vegetative cover. Landowners receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance to establish long-term conservation practices on eligible farmland. To date, the total national CRP stands at 31.3 million acres enrolled in nearly 738,000 contracts.